It seems an age since Neil Robertson won last years UK Championship in York, probably because the Barry Hearn regime is jam packed with tournaments throughout the year, making my mind slightly muddled at times it must be said. In fact, I can hardly remember a week off in the last 8 weeks, not that I’m complaining in any sense, but imagine the minds of the snooker players who have travelled the globe in the past number of weeks, sleeping in hotel rooms and eating foreign food.
It’s no wonder that quite a few of the top players decided not to play in the Northern Ireland Open last week, given it was held just a week before the second biggest snooker event of the year, the UK Championship. They say the more you play snooker, the better you get, but somehow I don’t think this is fully true, and certainly not to the point of exhaustion.
Again and again, and hardly surprisingly, Ronnie O’Sullivan comes to York as the bookies favourite. Why? To be honest I struggle to see why given his poor performances lately. Granted, O’Sullivan on his day can pull off anything on a snooker table, but I’d be sceptical that he will triumph here in York but it comes down to which Ronnie shows up. Is he more interested in the punditry than playing snooker now?
There are several players turning up to the UK Championship this week who not only want victory, but who can actually achieve it. Mark Selby for example; a player whose not everyone’s cup of tea, but my word, does he get the job done! He’s No.1 for a reason, he gets results more than anyone else on the tour. I’d be amazed if he wasn’t there or there abouts.
I think it would be silly of us to omit the best player of the month from our top picks. John Higgins has played a blinder in November. In the space of a short few weeks, the Wizard has won the Evergrande China Championship and the Champion of Champions titles. Additionally he also knocked in a wonderful 147 break last week at the Northern Ireland Open but suffered a defeat to Mark Williams in the quarter finals. This guy is on fire and probably the player in the best form coming into the UK’s this week.
Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham, Ding Junhui and Shaun Murphy are all in the mix too, although i worry about reigning UK Champion, Neil Robertson, as he’s had a pretty poor season so far by his standards. Murphy, Trump and Bingham kind of fall into the same bracket. They can and will all win tournaments, but not the type of champions like O’Sullivan and Higgins who are utterly devastating when on form. Judd Trump could easily be mentioned in the same sentence as O’Sullivan and Higgins but he needs to start showing he’s not just a good player, but a winner and a champion.
It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks in York, and as most of you know, with 128 players all in the mix, anything can happen! It won’t feel like the proper UK championship until the matches start showing on the television next Saturday but don’t worry, we’ll be keeping a close eye on proceedings and updating you with the latest news when it comes.